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riding 600k brevet without sleep?(22 posts)

riding 600k brevet without sleep?JS Haiku Shop
Apr 30, 2003 8:06 AM
any experiences, tales of woe, or advice?

~3.5 weeks 'til the 600k (372 miles). i've already stopped caffeine--typically i'll have ~24 ounces coffee in the AM, more on weekends. this is with expectation that a month without the juice will give it that much more of a kick when used in the late night hours on the road.

i'm not too worried about pacing, staying on the bike, limiting time at stops, eating, or logistics. i'm more concerned with sleepiness, decision making, and motivation through the night and after dawn. above all, staying awake and moderately alert seems like a major challenge. my guess is a 13-14 mph overall pace, making for a 27-29 hour ride if all goes well and there are no map challenges.

as far as i can tell, most folks will be overnighting at the 330k (~200 mile) mark, with only one other exception, so far. that exceptional (LOL) person keeps a much faster pace than me, on the bike. it's a pretty sure bet that the majority of this ride will be done alone.

thanks in advance!

that's a short ride :-)DougSloan
Apr 30, 2003 8:33 AM
In the 508 I slept for 30 minutes around 410 miles. However, in hindsight after consulting with an ultra coach, we think the major reason for my needing to stop/sleep was dehydration, sodium depletion, and bonking (remember it was 35,000 feet climbing, no drafting, and 106 degrees). I learned the severe sodium depletion mimicks or causes sleepiness (to the point of blacking out on the bike, for me). I also used no caffeine at all, for fear of worsening dehydration.

I found that aside from that, the mere act of pedaling the bike kept me wide awake. Once I coasted down a long (10 mile) descent around 3 a.m. in the cold and got sleepy there, but immediately sharpened up at the bottom after I started pedaling. I doubt you'll have that problem.

For the team 508 this last time I was awake for the 26 hour stint, and had no problems. I got a little sleepy in the van doing the leapfrog thing, but never on the bike (can't even start to get sleepy when riding at or above threshold).

I'd suggest just riding until you feel you simply cannot keep the bike on the road, or it feel dangerous. You'll know if you get there. Save the caffeine for when you really, really need it to get through a tough time. If necessary, pull over and nap for 10 minutes or so; wear a watch with an alarm to help you wake up.

Keeping up on water, salt, and food will help a great deal, as alertness is much better when all are correct.

Doug, your correct about dehydration..alansutton
Apr 30, 2003 9:20 AM
Extreme dehydration and sodium depletion causes the body to sleep or pass out. I too have learned this the hard way; although I experienced it in the desert in the middle east. If fact, if I were to choose a method of death, I'd pick dehydration. You just fall asleep and don't wake up. First your kidneys fail, then your blood fills with toxins and finally the brain dies.
it's good to have goals! nmJS Haiku Shop
Apr 30, 2003 9:49 AM
Note on sodium depletionabicirider
Apr 30, 2003 10:44 AM
J you probably already know this but since you use hammer, e-cap products they make a product called Endurolytes it is a electrolyte replacement capsule. Each capsule contains Sodium 100mg, Calcium 50mg, Magnesium 25 mg, Potassium 25mg Vitamin B-6 6.6mg Manganese.
I use these tablets here in NC in the summer months (hot humid) on my long rides need really seems to help dehydration. Just my opinion.
Just wanted to pass this along, best of luck with the 600k you will have a great time.
Be Safe Out On The Roads!!!!!!
Ray Still
Mooresville, NC
thanks! actually,...JS Haiku Shop
Apr 30, 2003 11:09 AM
on that last one i used gatorade, fig newtons, fritos, powerbar harvest bars, (a little) diluted hammergel, powergels, and a bottled starbucks mocha frappuccino. mostly fig newtons--strawberry, and fig flavors.

i've looked into the endurolytes, and will probably purchase and use them as the days get hotter. hammergel is working well for me, too.
Control perspectiveMelMo
Apr 30, 2003 9:23 AM
J.--I haven't ridden a 600 K brevet, but my husband and I have manned the overnight stop and talked to the riders afterwards. The 600K in question is a tough route, around the Olympic pennisula, which means endless, sometimes steep rollers and chip seal. The fastest finisher slept very little if at all and finished in, I think, about 25 hours. One of our beloved, but insane, randonneurs, Kent Peterson, talked another rider into sleeping only an hour or two and then riding on with him. Kent finished at his normal pace, but the guy he dragged with him bonked and suffered badly around the 450K mark. A couple of strong riders doing their first 600 rode at a steady pace the first day that allowed them plenty of time to eat, shower, and sleep for 4 hours. They were tired but not incoherent when the arrived at the control and perky when they left the next morning. They finished well within the 40 hour time limit, around 35 hours, and had a very pleasant ride.

The moral of these examples is: why go sleepless and plan a 27 hour ride when you've got 40 hours to do the brevet? Getting a couple of hours of sleep may mean the difference between a miserable, dizzy, bonking last 100K and a pleasant ride.

Just my .01,
Melinda in Seattle
(outta)Control perspectiveJS Haiku Shop
Apr 30, 2003 9:58 AM
Melinda, thanks.

though the control and sleepover mileage points may sound similar, this one's in Illinois. not terribly hilly (though there are supposed to be some character building inclines in the 600k), it can be windy and the weather is often an issue.

why? at this point (after a couple DCs, and 2/3/400k rides), and having a few days to ponder my longest ride ever (last weekends 250 mi), i'm fairly determined to do the full 600k in one constant ride, with control stops.

of course, most will satisfy the 40hr limit and 600k distance with a DC day 1, several hours of sleep, and a 300k ride on day 2. sounds to me like two long rides in two days. i'd like to qualify mine with "continuous, without sleep, with only necessary stops". i'm hoping someone will write Nordish songs about my ride. !ay!

additionally, one of my goals for 2003 is the MV24. i feel this one--at a "survival" pace--will help sort out whatever show-stoppers might exist at a somewhat higher pace on the MV24.

finally, what would a longish ride be without 60+ miles of dizziness, bonking, and misery?


thanks again!

Ah, it's all clear nowMelMo
Apr 30, 2003 10:17 AM
You WANT to do it the insane way. Okay. In that case, here's what I learned from the people who did (and did not) finish:

Know the route. If the cue sheet is available before the ride, study it and a map to avoid the "I'm so tired my eyes somehow skipped over that "turn left" instruction" phenomenon.

Variety o' food. Things that normally taste good may not when you're dog ass tired. Plus, if you've been off caffeine, suddenly having some will upset your digestive system so be prepared.

More lighting than you imagined possible. Give those late night trucks LOTS of warning that you're on the road, since you may not be steering your straightest line in the wee hours.

And good luck. Suffering makes good stories :)

GREAT! thanks, will do! nmJS Haiku Shop
Apr 30, 2003 10:26 AM
arrrgghhhhh, still 3 days before the 600K :-((((PeterRider
Apr 30, 2003 9:31 AM
not ready at all, tired from last week-end's 20,000ft climb, too short nights because of work... what's the recipe for still be in shape for saturday ??? Actually, sleepiness is what I fear the worst... last saturday I was eating coffee beans on the road, this time I'll take 2 boxes of the starbucks chocolate coated espresso beans !

re: starbucks beansJS Haiku Shop
Apr 30, 2003 10:00 AM
that's actually a very good idea. i really enjoy chocolate, and espresso, and starbucks, and i'm sure i'd look forward to that for many miles. i will bring these, for sure.

The idea is from Kent Peterson I think.PeterRider
Apr 30, 2003 10:55 AM
I've read his ride report from PBP 99 and I think he had those. And I hope to do PBP on the same bike he used for PBP99 (... yes, I'll put pictures of this bike as soon as I get my new digital camera, so that everybody can make fun of my ridiculous machine).

How did the twin Cateye 300s work out?Lon Norder
Apr 30, 2003 9:45 AM
Were they bright enough?

I can't really offer any advice whether to take a sleep break or not. I sort of agree with Doug; ride until you can't. It sounds like you have a morning start if people will be overnighting at 200 miles. Mine starts at 4PM, so it's a given that I'll be riding all night. Maybe I'll take a nap in a Napa Valley vineyard or park.

The feeling I get from the Davis Bike Club organizers is that it's kind of cheating to take a long sleep break (maybe cheating is too harsh a work), and if you can't finish the 600k in under 35 hours you'll have a hard time making the 40 hour cutoff in Brest.
about the time limitJS Haiku Shop
Apr 30, 2003 10:24 AM
"cheating", LOL! as has been stated many times by many riders, the person who finishes a 600k in 27 hours and the one who finishes in 39 hours both get the same medal and complete the qualifying series. so long as you stay on route, ride the distance, have no support between checkpoints, hit the controls in order, and finish within the time limit, there is no cheating!!!

from our conversation this weekend, it seems Dale Brigham plans to sleep ~8 hours--and mentioned doing so at his last 600k. He's fitter than a fiddle and could ride PBP (starting) tomorrow without question, IMHO. He'll have a fast day 1 and day 2, and qualify like the others, but (because he has a higher IQ) will enjoy the overall experience much more, and require less time recovering, with adequate sleep, and a shower. i'd probably do this too if i'd already ridden a 600k--but i want to ride it all at once, if i can.

it's my own feeling--what with upcoming rides and other goals--that riding this as one continuous effort is appropriate *for me*. i may not feel that way after my second set of dark hours. we'll start at 4 AM, which means i'll be 2 hours in the dark, ~14 hours in daylight, and another ~10 hours of night riding, plus a few more in daylight on the next day. the most night riding i've done at once was a DC last year that started at 1:30, putting us in the dark for 4.5+ hours--and that was starting fresh. i used good lights (10-14 watt) for that one.

the EL300s worked fine, but for >~16 mph on flats, or any descents, or really bad precip, i'd wish for a strong helmet light. after using the cateye 2.4 watt 4AA lights on several rides, i'd compare the 300s favorably. the light cast is definately softer, and blue--where the others are white or yellow. though it was difficult to say with the road illuminated by other lights, i'd guess the 300s put out about 75% of the light of the microhalogen 2.4s. when used, i had them both on. i did not take a helmet light, but will be carrying one on the 600k--not because i needed one on the 400k, but because i'll probably be alone more on the 600k, and we should be doing a bit more climing and descending.

our speeds on last weekend's ride were mostly accomplished in the first 50--when those up front were trying to rip everyone's legs off--and the daylight hours. our group of 6 "sat up" in the last ~35 miles, the majority of which was in the dark.
You're right...Lon Norder
Apr 30, 2003 11:36 AM
OK, "cheating" was my word not theirs (and probably not a very good one). But I think the 4PM start time was chosen to discourage sleep breaks, because you don't want to sleep too soon or waste daylight. Thanks for the info on the cateyes.
J is tougher than I, and I mean no disrespect, LonDale Brigham
Apr 30, 2003 12:40 PM

I know you'll be able to do the 600 K straight-through, if you want. You are very kind to comment on my fitness, but you are much better prepared than I, J. As you learned, I have 2-hour max ride brain trapped in a randos body. I don't want to ride more than 2 hours at a time; I just have to.

And "have to" runs this show, in my view. At PBP (or any other long test), you keep going the next daty because you "have to," not because you want to. At least, that's my take on it.


I know you did not literally mean "cheat" when you cited the Davis Bike Club folk's views on rando style. I just wanted to rant (see below) about rando purists, probably because I'll never be one of those tough guys.

Davis Bike Club brought the largest contingent of randos to the '99 PBP of any other club in the U.S. Their California Republic jerseys were everywhere. The DBC randos I met were nice folks, and I hope to see more this August in France. I hope, also, to see you there.

Bonne route!

Thanks, Dale.Lon Norder
Apr 30, 2003 3:05 PM
I already paid for my DBC California Republic jersey and jacket so I better qualify!
Sleeping = Cheating on a 600 K brevetDale Brigham
Apr 30, 2003 12:24 PM
Henri Desgranges, originator of the Tour de France, would be so proud of that equation. If you don't recall, Henri's the guy that penalized Eugene Christophe (toeclip namesake) in the 1913 Tour for having a boy operating the bellows at the forge in Ste. Marie de Campan when 'Gene was repairing his broken fork. Why? 'Cuz it's cheating! The Tour would be too easy, otherwise, sayeth Henri.

The only part of randonneuring that gets my goat is the arbiters of "rando purity," who decry having support at controles and (gasp!) sleeping. I believe that each rando can choose his or her "style:" supported or non-supported, racer or tourist, sleeper or insomniac.

To insist that one way is better (more "pure") than another is like the a shipwrecked mariner hanging onto a rescue ring in the ocean criticizing his shipmate who has a lifevest on, saying, "Look here, old chap, I do believe you are not really getting into the spirit of this party. If you insist on taking the easy way out, please find another spot of water to paddle about in, won't you?"

Heck, if I could work it out (I don't have enogh dough, and my wife would not approve), at every PBP controle, a bevy of scantily-clad Maxim covergirls would gently pry me from my bike, place me in a sedan chair, and carry me to the controle check-in. Then, they would bathe and feed me by hand, annointing me in fragrant oils and bag balm, before gently placing me back on my bike. I'd have gourmet meals flown in by helicopter and a rolling palace on wheels in which to rest my tired bones. And that's not even counting the squads of masseuses helping me to "work out the kinks."

My point is, randonneuring is plenty hard, due to the simple fact that you have to pedal every darned kilometer in a set time period, being self-sufficient between controles. I'm not interested in who is wearing the scratchiest hairshirt. Heck, if I wanted to suffer more, I'd go back to school and get another Ph.D.

Regarding getting to Brest under the time limit, if you are in the 84-hour group and you make it to Loudeac (450 km) by the end of the first day before you bed down (I'm such a wuss that I sleep in a bed!), it's not that big of a deal to get to Brest (160 km away) in time before that controle closes at 6:40 p.m. the next day. Yes, that's 37:40 for 600 km, but doing a long (400-450 km) first day of a 600 km brevet, overnighting in a motel, followed by a 150-200 km "sprint" to the finish the next day is very much like the first half of PBP. Of course, in PBP you have to get back to Loudeac that night, ride 300 km the next day, etc.... But, that's another story.

'scratchiest hairshirt' LOL! nmJS Haiku Shop
Apr 30, 2003 12:33 PM
PBP questionDougSloan
Apr 30, 2003 1:06 PM
Are there enough riders in PBP that you can fairly be assured of drafting the whole way? And if so, would you expect a higher average speed than you might in a brevet with fewer people and lots of solo riding?

Answer: It varies widely.Dale Brigham
Apr 30, 2003 1:38 PM

It depends on 1) the start group you are in, 2) the part of the course you are on, and 3) the speed you want to go.

1) There are 3 start/finish groups, 80-, 84-, and 90-hours, corresponding to the total max. duration the rider has to complete PBP. The largest group by far, 90-hour, had about 2,400 starters in '99. The other two groups are much smaller, about 800 in the 80-hour and 500 in the 84-hour groups. There would be more drafting opportunities in the larger starting groups. I did the 84-hour group in '99, and I had plenty of folks to ride with pretty much whenever I wanted, but being the last group to start, it's slimmer pickings than the rest.

2) Lots of group riding early on in the course, but everyone spreads out later as differing paces and break schedules string out the riders. Also, much of the terrain (hilly) does not lend itself to group riding and obviates much of the benefits of drafting that one would enjoy on flatter terrain.

3) Because I tended to stop longer (sleep!) at controles than many others, I'd catch up by riding faster than many others while on the bike. When you are blowing by dozens of folks (relatively speaking) all day, drafting does not do much good. I'm sure that if I had a more speed-compatible bunch to ride with (which might be the case this year), I'd do more drafting. For the speedy guys and gals going under 50 hours, I'm sure constant drafting is a must.

I hope this answers everything, Doug!